JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) – Members of the Jackson City Council are seeking a declaratory judgment before Friday, to ensure trash pickup continues for Jackson residents.
Tuesday, the council filed a motion seeking a speedy hearing in a case it filed Monday in Hinds County Chancery Court.
Monday, the council filed suit against the city of Jackson and Waste Management, asking the court to determine whether its action to enter into an emergency garbage collection contract without the mayor’s consent was legal.
Hours before the suit was filed, the council declared a state of emergency over its garbage collections and approved a 30-day pickup contract with Waste Management.
The city’s current contract with the firm runs out on September 30. If the court does not uphold the council’s action, the city will not have residential garbage collection services beginning October 1.
“This action is an urgent matter of public policy, deserving priority on the court’s docket,” attorneys for the council write. “Holding a speedy hearing will expedite the resolution of the controversy and remove uncertainty as to the proper legal powers, rights, status and relations of the parties and of the respective branches of municipal government in which they serve.”
At the center of the suit is whether the city council, a legislative body, can enter into a contract that was not negotiated or presented by the mayor.
The city has a council-mayor form of government. General duties of the council include appointing clerks and deputy clerks, conducting annual audits, putting together budgets, and making appropriations, according to state statute.
The council claims it has to act after the mayor has “abdicated” his responsibility. Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba, meanwhile, says he has attempted to act, but the council has thwarted his efforts.
Attorneys for the council, meanwhile, say they believe they are in the right but have sought a judge’s opinion to be clear.
“The RFP process is the legally proscribed process for, among other things, selecting garbage services,” said attorney Roy Campbell, who spoke at the Monday council meeting. “What has happened now is that the city of Jackson is now under a local emergency. This is not the normal course of events… so the normal requirements that would adhere, including the requirements of publishing an RFP, are not required.”
“That is why the council has the authority to consider… the proposal from Waste Management or the proposal from National Waste.”
RFPs are requests for proposals. The city issued a request in the spring, and three firms responded: FCC Environmental Services, Waste Management and Richard’s Disposal.
FCC received the highest score during the evaluation process, despite having the highest cost for trash pickup.
According to the lawsuit, the mayor “had not presented any further requests to the city council for authority to execute a contract for solid waste collection and hauling services” since August 19.
That month, the council twice voted down the mayor’s first proposal to bring on FCC.
Following those votes, the mayor entered into talks with Waste Management, the firm that scored the second-highest during the RFP evaluation process.
However, on August 30, the administration ended talks with the company after Waste Management refused to offer the city a one-year deal.
Weeks later, on September 17, the mayor issued a state of emergency over garbage collections and signed a contract with National Waste United LLC, a firm of local and out-of-state businesses, to pick up rubbish during the emergency.
The council rescinded the emergency on September 22, nullifying National Waste’s deal. That same day, Waste Management offered to continue collections in the city through the month of October for a $10.56 per residential unit.
Lumumba never brought the National Waste contract to the council, nor did he inform the council that he was accepting the Waste Management deal.
In fact, in a statement, he said it was on the council to determine how waste would be picked up.
“Mayor Lumumba’s conduct at and since the September 22, 2021 City Council meeting demonstrates an abdication of his responsibility to provide for the collection and disposal of garbage and rubbish.”
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